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The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states, "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men." Several forms of violence are more prevalent in certain parts of the world, often in developing countries.
For example, dowry violence and bride burning is associated with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
Other critics argue that employing the term gender in this particular way may introduce notions of inferiority and subordination for femininity and superiority for masculinity.
There is no widely accepted current definition that covers all the dimensions of gender based violence rather than the one for women that tends to reproduce the concept of binary oppositions: masculinity versus femininity.
Moreover, the definition stated by the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women also supported the notion that violence is rooted in the inequality between men and women when the term violence is used together with the term 'gender-based.' In Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence, the Council of Europe stipulated that VAW "includes, but is not limited to, the following": a.
violence occurring in the family or domestic unit, including, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honour, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages; b.
In recent years, there has been a trend of approaching VAW at an international level, through instruments such as conventions; or, in the European Union, through directives, such as the directive against sexual harassment, The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, provides the following definition of violence against women: "violence against women" is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life it was the 1993 United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which became the first international instrument to explicitly define VAW and elaborate on the subject.
Many forms of VAW, such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.
These definitions are conceptualized in an understanding of society as patriarchal, signifying unequal relations between men and women.
Opponents of such definitions argue that the definitions disregard violence against men and that the term gender, as used in gender based violence, only refers to women.
These include violence carried out by "individuals" as well as "states".
Some of the forms of violence perpetrated by individuals are: rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, reproductive coercion, female infanticide, prenatal sex selection, obstetric violence, and mob violence; as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage.